Jimmy Carter Says Ted Kennedy Is To Blame For Lack Of Universal Health Care In America

President Jimmy Carter is speaking out, having recovered from cancer thanks to the new drug Keytruda, he is feeling pretty good for a 91-year-old. Carter always enjoys the opportunity to guide the nation just a bit more in his books and in a multitude of interviews over the years.

President Carter’s amazing recovery through Keytruda has inspired Georgia’s House Bill 965, named “The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act.” The bill has passed nearly unanimously. HB 965 provides for patients to receive any and all drugs prescribed by their doctor without having to try the standard and presumably less effective treatment first according to the Albany Herald. The language in the bill is clear.

“No health benefit plan shall require an insured to fail to successfully respond to a drug or drugs for stage four advanced, metastatic cancer prior to the approval of a drug prescribed by his or her physician.”

If only Carter had reached an agreement with Ted Kennedy and gotten that kind of cooperation with the United States Senate and House back in 1979, such regulatory legislation would not even be necessary. In those days, Carter had a plan for universal health care, but like much of his vision, that would have put the United States in a much better position today, it was never passed into law thanks to petty obstructionism in the Senate.

Jimmy Carter, in an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, explained the reason why the United States does not have universal health care. In this interview, the elder statesman is more introspective and takes a share of the blame. Previous statements on the issue have not been as kind. Giving a bit of background, the great statesman explains with the benefit of hindsight.

“For the last two years I was in the White House, Ted Kennedy was running against me for president. And I didn’t reach out to him adequately to try to get him to stay as one of my allies instead of an opponent.”

Tapper then asked President Carter if Ted Kennedy helped sink his universal health care plan. Carter and Kennedy were often at odds, and Kennedy held a lot of sway with the other senators.

“Well, he did that too, yes, but, you know, he was a candidate then. And I have to understand — I’m not criticizing, because he had his own agenda, too, before. He felt he should have been president when I was, and so he obviously felt that he should be president when I left. It didn’t work out that way for him or me, as a matter of fact.”

Jimmy Carter, in a previous interview with CBS News, revealed and discussed excerpts from his 5,000-page diary, kept during his White House years. Published in 2010, White House Diary by Jimmy Carter is a virtually unedited account of his presidency from his point of view. It is honest and at times a harsh critique of himself as well as other political leaders. This book has a much less diplomatic tone than his more recent works.

Ted Kennedy, in the White House Diary, was revealed as Jimmy’s nemesis. Quoting from the White House Diary, the elder statesman was far more vindictive in his younger years, as he actually dealt with Kennedy’s petty quarrels with him, blocking universal health care for millions of Americans over politics.

“Kennedy continuing his irresponsible and abusive attitude immediately condemned our health plan. He couldn’t get five votes for his plan, He drove me up the wall.”

President Jimmy Carter expressed in the CBS interview how frustrating it is to see even now, the United States wrestles with an issue that could have been settled 35 years ago if it were not for a petty political rivalry. Senator Ted Kennedy died, vehemently advocating universal health care, and bitterly disappointed it did not happen in his lifetime.

“The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care NOW, had it not been for Ted Kennedy’s deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed in 1978 or ’79,”

Ted Kennedy 1980 election by Keystone

Jimmy Carter at the time of the CBS interview put the blame squarely on Ted Kennedy. It was Kennedy’s fault America did not receive universal health care in 1979, according to Carter’s book.

“Exactly. It was his fault, Ted Kennedy killed the bill. He did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of American life.”

Jimmy Carter freely admits he antagonized congress. In hindsight, he regrets his impetuous approach to their obstructionist attitudes. At the time, he accused them of blackmail, juvenile behavior, and bullying.

“I told them in a nice way, to go to hell.”

President Carter

President Jimmy Carter accomplished a lot of things that improve American lives today. His advocacy of green energy put in place technological advancements that saved Americans a lot of money when gas prices soared to $5 a gallon during the Bush administration. Thankfully, the 39th President insisted that cars get better gas mileage in an era when most cars got only 5 to 12 miles per gallon. He pushed the technology and set standards for more fuel efficient cars. He advocated solar panels and wind energy. He even installed solar panels on the White House.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter’s universal health care bill was killed by an unlikely opponent, Senator Ted Kennedy, who later advocated for universal health care as his key issue for the rests of his life. Both men undoubtedly regretted allowing politics to prevent lifesaving measures for the American people, though, in 1979, they had no idea how necessary the legislation would become in light of current medical costs.

President Jimmy Carter shares this story, perhaps as a timely reminder of how the political rivalry between candidates can interfere with the well-being of the people.

[Photo by Pool/Getty Images]